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Acts chapter 3 verses 1 to 26: Peter heals a lame man

Chapter 3 verses 1 - 26: Peter Heals a Lame Man

Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, "Look at us." So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them–walking, eaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God. Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon's, greatly amazed. So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: "Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

"Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said to the fathers, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people. ' Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, 'And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. ' To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities."[1]

As I read through this passage, did your minds go back a number of years to this chorus?

Peter and John went to pray.
they met a lame man on the way
He asked for alms and held out his palms,
and this is what Peter did say"
Silver and gold have I none,
but such as I have give I you.
In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, in Jesus' name rise up and walk.
The man went walking and leaping and praising God,
Walking and leaping and praising God,
"In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, In Jesus' name rise up and walk.“

Is this what the passage is really about, a lovely miracle, a comparison between money, and God’s willingness to heal, or the unbelief of the folk going to the temple? Why were they going to the temple if they could not believe that God can answer prayers; heal? For if God could not do that, how was God going to forgive, or was it all a ritual? The reason we read the whole chapter is because we needed to get the story into context. The miracle was the introduction, the rest of the chapter the main course.

Some points are needed to be noted here first of all about this miracle. It was done by two apostles, two witnesses, though Peter was the speaker and one who hauled the man to his feet. The other apostle was John the apostle of agape, love, as seen in his writings of the love of God. They demanded the man’s full attention. God was going to do something amazing. Note the choice of subject for the miracle performed by the apostles - 40 years old, crippled for all that time. A hard case, an impossible case, no fly by night happening event will happen with this one. Note the words Peter uses. ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk’ Peter was on a mission. He was needing to deliver the gospel. He needed people to know that God, as the Trinity was changing the way things happened. He explained so eloquently the event of the Holy Spirit, now he focuses on the Son of God. He needed people to understand that Jesus Christ of Nazareth was in heaven, with the Father, the Son of God, with the power of God. He connected the name the people knew, and knew the story of, and knew the rumours about - remember 500 people saw Jesus in a resurrected state, with this miracle irrevocably. The people had to know that the healing was from the man they saw crucified, and the one who these men claimed to have seen taken up into heaven and proclaimed as the Christ, the Saviour of the world, the one that they were supposed to be waiting for, and missed. In Jesus’s name the man was raised to his feet. And not only were the crippled ankles and feet healed, he knew who it was that healed him so ran about in exuberance praising God. How I wish I could lose (with reverence, and humbleness) the constraints of conservatism from time to time, when God does something marvellous in my life, and be willing to leap and dance, and praise God out loud. David did - his wife despised him, but it did not matter, he knew who loved him.

A commentator noted that it was ‘the time of prayer’ at the Temple. Undoubtedly there were some very serious Jews in the Temple, doing their stuff, and probably unchanged from when Jesus commented on their attitude to prayer as a show, lacking substance. They would have wanted it to be quiet whilst they prayed long loud prayers. Instead of that, this man came along. He jumped. He ran. He praised God. He would have been seriously disturbing the quite - except the sound of their own voice, something the people at prayer would not have wanted! Ironic really, that God does a miracle at this time and this place. I am sure God smiled at the reaction. Then hit them between the eyes with his new master preacher Peter.

The reaction of the healed man is also great. He starts to dance -walking and leaping. What do we know about the man he was a - certain man lame from his mother's womb. Have you ever had your leg in a plaster then learned to walk again? It takes time, it takes tentative steps, it takes months between two rails for some. Have you ever learned to dance? Even harder, for one who knows how to walk. Yet God not only restored this man’s ankles and feet, God gives him the ability immediately to use them in this highly revved activity. Remember, he had never walked before, it was not a previously learned attribute. A child takes a few months to get it right, the adult brain is slower to rebuild, and would normally take a long time to rehabilitate. So not only has God healed, but also gave the man 40 years of walking and leaping experience so that it is an instantaneous thing.

Is this the point of the passage - the God does not do half-baked jobs? That, when God heals, it is every bit? That when God heals we need to dance? Not at all, though it is a point, however, more importantly it was just as we saw with the coming of the Holy Spirit, God uses a wow factor to make a point, open discussion, create questions, then thrusts Peter into the lime light to do just one thing -preach the gospel.

Why do I say this. Take a look again at the passage: Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon's, greatly amazed. So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: "Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? The people are amazed, Peter asks them why? Why are people amazed as they saw Jesus doing such miracles for three and half years, and these disciples were with them. It is because of their inability to connect the work of Jesus to these men. In theory, to their thinking, Jesus being dead stopped the magic as it were, or whatever they believed helped Jesus do miracles. We know from Matthew 12:24 they were saying: Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, "This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons." Now they see the healing power continue through Peter, and they are amazed. God has their attention. The wow factor has worked, he has opened their ears so that an explanation may be given, maybe now the message will reach their hearts of stone. So we see Peter start here by exclaiming, why do you marvel at this? Where is your faith? This is the temple, why would you not see the work of God here. What is God to you? What is your problem folks??

Note he says ‘men of Israel’. What does God say about Israel - as Peter said in his letter to the Jews, and noting that these words also applies to us, though not in the same context:

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. 1 Peter 1:9-10.

Men of Israel - don’t you know your God, don’t you believe in His power anymore? Are you not willing to believe in what Scripture has outlined and taught for hundreds of years?

So there were no doubts as to Peter’s comments, no question about to whom he was speaking, and so the Men of Israel understood the full meaning of that three word phrase, Peter continues with: Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus… Here is the title of God that they would or should have recognised as being intricately and permanently bound to their being Men of Israel - The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers. Men, don’t you even know your own God. I will remind you - remember the ancestors of old, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob of whom we are all descendants?? Peter is spelling it out. He says to them;

“hey guys, we can’t do this healing stuff, not through a scrap of power we have. Surely you know this. And no matter how godly we are, we attend the synagogue regularly - sure, we pray and worship, and meditate, and gather together to worship God each day - sure, but that does not make us healers. Surely Men of Israel you know that power can only come from God, and from one God only - our God, or, if you don’t have a god of your own, the God of our fathers - the three ancestors that we all descend from, that makes us Men of Israel. Remember that God, well he has a son Jesus, who is now glorified. Remember Jesus of Nazareth? The power we use is His, because God has glorified Him - don’t you know this?“

Peter reminds them of what they had done collectively, to Jesus, with the same reminder he used in Pentecost: whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. “Remember the one who you crucified not that many days ago?“

This is what Peter was getting through to them. How do miracles occur - not by us, but by Jesus Christ - the Prince of Life - how else do dead limbs get back life and dancing. The Prince of Life brings life, in this example through healing, but shortly, Peter will tell them the Gospel message showing them that Jesus can bring total transformation, leading to immortality in eternity. But first he needs to point out how is it possible since Jesus was murdered not that many days ago. Well, Peter says, it is because God raised Him from the dead - we know, we saw Him, we are Witnesses, both of us (remember John was there as well). Jesus is glorified, Peter ensures that being raised from the dead has greater meaning for Jesus than Lazarus for example - Jesus was glorified, He gives us the power, we heal through Him. How do we do it - through faith. And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

Ray Stedman writes this[2]: What does he mean? Well, he is demonstrating the reaction of God to the guilt of man. Here is a lame man who is part of this guilty nation. Though he was handicapped and incapacitated in himself, yet he was part of this nation which had rejected its Messiah and had cried out, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" when Pilate had wanted to let him go, (Luke 23:21, John 19:6). He was just as guilty as anyone else in that crowd that day. Yet here he stands in perfect health, restored and made whole by God's power. "And," says Peter, "the ground of his acceptance before God, the only thing that made God do this wonderful thing in his life, was nothing of merit in himself but simply his faith in the name of Jesus." This is what Peter is getting at. He says, "God is demonstrating for you people how he reacts to human guilt. He reacts in love and grace, on the basis of the name of Jesus, by faith in the name of Jesus. That is what made this man whole. Don't look at us; we didn't do it. When we spoke the name of Jesus, this man believed in the power and authority and the work of that name, and immediately there came flowing into his body the strength his limbs lacked. This is why he now stands here in perfect health before you, as a demonstration of God's answer to human guilt."

What other verses help us here in understanding this faith in Jesus’s name? I am sure some immediately jump to mind. Let us try a couple:

Acts 4:30 repeats this clear message: Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus." And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

See again the use of the name of ‘Your holy Servant Jesus’, in being the power behind the miracles the disciples were praying for. However, this is the verse that my mind first went to:

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-10).

This verse tells us so much about who Jesus is, and the power that is in His name. It tells us that God exalted Jesus so that His name has all authority that every knee everywhere is under the subjection of this name, that if we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we do it to the glory of the Father, in His will, His name is all we need to further God’s kingdom. Does it mean we can heal? Absolutely, if this is the Father’s will! Peter is highlighting that Jesus Christ is the name that made the healing happen; we were just the conduit for it. Paul has to reiterate later down the track, because the Philippians were not getting it.

Peter tells them that they have an excuse for their behaviour towards Jesus, to a point - "you did it in ignorance, then the little three letter word - But here is the rub, here is something that the rulers at least should have known, Peter says BUT those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets&hellip the prophets had told the story, the prophets had told of Jesus and His coming and His suffering and His death, the prophets were there for them to read, in the Scripture of the day, they had the words of the prophets so their ignorance’s was in itself not that excusable at all - the same with us today. We really have no excuse as we have the Word, we have Bible scholars, commentators, pastors, each other as priests and kings, we know and therefore have no excuse not to live The Way.

The folk at Peter’s sermon did not need not go past the Psalms for a taste of the incredible detail the prophets had spoken. However Peter’s tone says that they did not know the prophets, they had not studied and meditated on the Torah, they had failed to look for and know the signs of the Messiah, despite John the Baptist coming through, and even Jesus Himself. Psalm 22 is one of these passages they should have known:

They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots. Surely they read Isaiah? They had just had three and a half years of these words being fulfilled: Because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives. Psalm 22

Jesus had proclaimed this to them. Hard hearts, hearts not in tune with God brought this to themselves. They fulfilled the words of Deuteronomy 10:12 Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff- necked no longer. They like us so often had hearts of stone, not attuned to God. This concept absolutely applied to the crowd asking how can it be that a lame man has been made to walk and Peter tells them they can do it.

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.

Circumcision of the heart comes with repentance. It comes with refreshment of the heart. Here though not spoken immediately takes me to the concept of the living water - refreshment, Here Peter tells them the way, and then reiterates the reason he knows this is the case. Peter tells them again, in this very same passage about the prophets and notes the words of Moses, then Abraham, and again reminds them of who their forefathers were, who they are, why they are who they are - that they have a covenant and blessings come from that covenant. Peter also reminds them that if they do not follow after the words of the prophets, that if they reject God, destruction will come to them. They have a choice, and they are at the point where they need to accept all that the prophets has told them. To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities. The Jew had a special place, Jesus came to them first, but in saying this Peter is indicating that there will be a second blessing, and we know that to be the Gentiles, where the same rules apply - turn away from sin and sinning and receive the blessing, don’t turn, be stiff necked and rebellious and find condemnation.

What does the response Peter give have to do with the lame man dancing about and singing in the temple? There has to be a connection, otherwise the two passages belong in separate sections. Why did the man get healed? After all, it had been more than 40 years. It seems that when you look at the light of what Peter is saying, a man who sat at the Temple each day developed faith; he knew of God, he recognised the miracles that could occur, he just was never healed when Jesus came by. His healing came through his faith as seen by his response - he immediately praised God. We don’t read that he praised Peter, he praised the healer -God. Peter in his sermon that followed the healing is talking of the same thing, but in a different context, he has switched from physical healing to spiritual healing. Repentance brings blessing - see that man dancing and singing, God heals, and He can also heal your heart of stone, and make it a heart of flesh. We can see this very message in Ezekiel 34 starting at verse 26:

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Exekiel 34:26

It is all there in the Old Testament. We just need to read it and apply it to our lives really. So, where does this passage take us, remembering that the series was to direct out paths as a church, to shine a light on what was back then, and how we do it now? Maybe we have not seen a miracle lately to compare the response of those nearby. People certainly don’t sit on our doorsteps collecting alms - maybe because they know it will be poor pickings. However, we are surrounded by the unrepentant, same as back then. Hearts are hard, and stiff-necked people abound, inside and outside the church. But that is just surface stuff. Let us see the thrust of Peter’s message - you did not know, you had forgotten what was told to your forefathers, I know that you did it in ignorance. How sad it is today that the same words may echo down our hallways. We do stuff in ignorance, forgetting that the forefathers knew better, the Bible has the right words, the right way, the prophecies to look to, and the fulfilment of the prophecies that allow us to know that what God says he will do he does. As our brother Ron told us last week, Christianity has not obeyed the verses related to unity, there are thousands of different sects all of who claim to be worshipping the same God, but are not united in Spirit, nor in community, and seem to not even agree that we are part of the one body.

Romans 13:1-2 tells us: Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

We do our best not to follow this point. In fact, we take it as our right to criticise the governing body. Let us cut close to the bone now. Romans 14:12-13 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way. Is this not about lifting each other up, working with our brothers and sisters in all patience and love? Paul thinks so, for he writes further in the same book, chapter 15 verse 1-2; We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, leading to edification. How are we doing as a church - one group of believers together, let alone trying to unite all believers together? How God must be aching for unity, itching to bring us together as we destroy His precious standards, by refusing to adhere to His doctrine and commands. We are no different, and if we saw a man known to be a man as Peter was - one who followed Jesus healing a man in our church foyer, would we not also say - how can it be, and no doubt also say - ‘charlatan’?

This chapter in Acts more importantly, though it tells us about the gospel, is so we can know that in the 21st century nothing has changed. The passage tells us that we too must say repent or perish. We need to remind people that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has not changed, the covenant still exists, and Jesus has come, and is now in glory - the resurrection is real. We need to remember that we are God’s children and we have an obligation to ensure sinners come to Christ, and we cannot pick and choose. I say this because we like to send missionaries to other countries to work amongst the heathen; however, we are less likely to preach to a bunch of Goths, dressed in black, who congregate in shopping malls. Is it because they may indeed come to the Lord, and their hearts may change faster than their clothing style, and their looks, and they may wish to come to our church, looking like what? A converted Goth. Can we have converted Goth’s here?

The passage goes further than this though. It reminds us that we ought to know the will of God. We have no excuse. I struggle every day to know the will of God, but I should not. It is all before me. I have a myriad of examples of people, and their lives, documented, that shows those that knew and followed the will of God, and those that failed miserably at it, and the consequences of it.

Psalm 119:15-16, 36-37, 104-106 tells us: “I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word… Incline my heart to Your testimonies,… Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn and confirmed that I will keep Your righteous judgments.

That is how we get to know the will of God. However, we like the people of our chapter today, go to the synagogue, make prayers to God, sit in the pews, and fail to do more. The more time I spend in the Word, the closer I can move to God, if I delight in His statues, incline my heart to His testimonies, use the Word as a lamp for my feet, keep God’s righteous judgements. Listening to a sermon is none of those things. Singing praises can be, if the heart is in the right place, prayers are pointless unless they are in the will of our Father, if we are praying according to the Holy Spirit within. Anyone can study the Bible. There are many scholars of the Bible who are atheist, or agnostic at best. People have gained PhD’s in writing discourses about the Bible, yet you will not find them in heaven. They like us would be astounded if we saw a lame man from birth leaping and shouting and praising God after some dude told him he could. We may have repented, we may be Christian, we may have the Holy Spirit indwelling, but outwardly be as bad as these.

I leave us today with one last passage that reminds us of the connection we need to have between faith and prayer, for prayer without faith and hope is pointless. We must remember who our God is, who we are, what being a Christian actually means, like the Men of Israel needed to be reminded of who they were, and what being a Man of Israel was about. Is this us folks?:

Acts 12:5-16 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church… Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, "Arise quickly!" And his chains fell off his hands… And when Peter had come to himself, he said, "Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod… he came to the house of Mary.. where many were gathered together praying. And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter's voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. But they said to her, "You are beside yourself!" Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, "It is his angel." Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.

Are we astonished when God answers prayer? What is our relationship like with God, our knowledge of His Way, and our walk on His pathways oh child of God, myself included, as so-called Christians?

Let us pray.

[1] New King James Version, Olive Tree Bible Software. 2012

[2] Ray C. Stedman By Faith in His Name Series: Where the Action Is (22 March 1970) published by Ray Stedman Ministries, USA, http://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/acts/by-faith-in-his-name (Accessed 9 Aug 2013)

Stephen B Simon (CCC 7 July 2013)
\Acts\Acts  3 v 1-26 (SBS)